Hi Daniel. You originally started your entrepreneurial journey in farming with a vision to produce “Australia’s best eggs”. You now run a company called Chicken Caravan which sells something quite different! Can you talk us through the journey of how you went from selling organic eggs to becoming one of our region’s leading manufacturers?
In 2010 I wanted to start an egg farm and I wanted that farm to produce the very best eggs. I wanted these eggs to be used by Australia’s best chefs but before we could achieve this, I knew we needed a movable chicken shed to house our chickens.
There was nothing on the market that we could just buy to do this, so we built our own movable chicken shed and called it a Chicken Caravan. Other farmers were interested in the Chicken Caravans, so in 2011 we started selling them to a few farmers. We never set out to sell these Chicken Caravans; we just wanted to build the best product for ourselves because we knew if you had a bad system in an egg farming business, your labour costs could be really high.
In 2012 we won the Australian farm invention of the year and went on to sell the Chicken Caravans within every state of Australia. We have also sold a few to people in New Zealand, USA and Canada. We are now in the process of setting up distribution throughout the USA.
You seem to exude a great passion for what you do. What is it that you love most about running your business?
I love marketing. Marketing is communicating to the world that your product will make their life easier. I believe you are doing a service to people when you market your quality product to them. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t put the effort in to telling the world that this product exists, then you are simply doing a disservice to everyone who could have benefited from it.
I really believe our product can change the face of the egg production sector of agriculture on our planet. When your belief and conviction that your product will help others is so strong, it manifests into a passion. At that point it is no longer about the money; it’s about getting the message out there that this product can help people.
You recently ran a workshop at the Digital Marketing Day Out in which you demonstrated how powerful video can be as a marketing tool. Can you tell us how you have been able to use video effectively to promote Chicken Caravan?
Video is a great media for us to tell our story, showcase our product and share our passion. We have used video to connect with farmers and demonstrate how our product works. In fact, we have a whole collection of videos that showcase our products on YouTube. Compared to using a photo of our products along with a list of things that it does, we thought that video can really show people how they can interact with product – it’s a great way to demonstrate all the moving parts in operation.
Videos also show our customers who we are. In today’s world, a lot of companies are hiding behind a logo or a phone number or a faceless Board of Directors.
Video enables us to bring a refreshing transparency to our customers and let them know that we are a real person. This has really helped us to do business with people interstate and overseas. Some of these people have become customers and still to this day I have not met them, but by watching our videos they feel they know me and our team.
What does the future bring for Chicken Caravan? Have you got any exciting initiatives planned for the future?
We have some very cool stuff in the pipeline that has not yet been released. For instance, we have Chicken Caravans that move themselves by remote control. This means a farmer does not need a tractor (which can cost thousands of dollars) to move the caravans.
We are also working on a product that will eliminate the need for fencing to contain chickens and protect them from foxes. It will include by sensors and lasers that detect fox activity and then activate an unmanned ground or aerial vehicle that will chase away the foxes. I am personally really excited about this product, because it has the potential to be used with other livestock such as sheep, cattle and goats. The impact of feral predators such as pigs, wild dogs and foxes accounts for two hundred million dollars a year in livestock losses for Aussie farmers every year. So if we can engineer an electric body guard that can keep just half of these feral predators away, the Australian agriculture industry will be one hundred million dollars a year better off.
What advice would you offer to other people looking to venture into manufacturing?
Make something that no one else is making. Get feedback from your customers and find out what they love and hate about your product. If your customer knows you listen to their needs, they are more likely to keep buying from you when others enter the market.
Manufacture something that you are passionate about. People feel passion; they sense it. Again, this can future proof your business by ensuring that if a competitor enters the market and competes just on price, you will have the advantage of an emotional connection to your customers.
Look at Apple as another example of this. There are customers that just want to surf the internet, and they could do that on a $400 laptop, but they choose to spend $1,500 on an Apple product because they feel like they are getting more value emotionally.
And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them?
Ian Clayton; he is a New Zealand businessman and it seems that everything he touches turns to gold. He walks in a confidence of success.
Tony Robbins; he has spent a lot of years studying and understanding mindset, and I believe it’s important to get your mindset sorted out.
Richard Branson; he is a serial entrepreneur. Time Magazine says he is the only entrepreneur to have built eight separate billion-dollar companies in eight different industries. I’m sure I could learn a thing or two from him!
Thanks for your time Daniel!